Image of Kawarau Suspension Bridge & river ; photo by Matthias Klappenbach CC BY 2.0.

Two leaps of faith took place here: this is the birthplace of bungy tourism, where people every day leap from the equivalent of a 10-storey building held-safe by just a giant elastic band around their ankles. It is also here in 1880 that a daring new bridge design was introduced. The challenge for engineer Harry Higginson was a sheer rocky gorge that funnelled destructive side winds. Higginson was aware that in other countries several near-new bridges had been destroyed by high winds. To meet this challenge, he combined a range of innovative strengthening solutions, such as inward sloping cables, to come up with a suspension bridge that was 42 m high with a 120m long span. The design proved economical and enduring.  The work won a world’s top engineering award, a Telford Premium, in 1882. In 1963 a new bridge opened and the 1880 bridge was retained for its historic value. In 1988 A. J. Hackett began the world’s first commercial bungy jumping venture here and this has grown into an international attraction. The bridge and surrounding site featured in the Lord of the Rings films and is on the Queenstown Trail Arrow River Bridges cycle route.

Related links - Kawarau Bridge Bungy

Engineering New Zealand - Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge

Updated on 26th April 2018